Feb 11, 2008

EPA Must Rewrite Utility Mercury Rule

 WASHINGTON federal court ruled Friday that the Environmental Protection Agency must fundamentally rework its mercury rules for utilities.

The US Court ruled that the EPA violated the Clean Air Act in 2005 when it exempted coal plants from the strictest emission controls for mercury and other toxic substances like arsenic, lead and nickel.

The EPA's "Clean Air Mercury Rule" would have created a "cap-and-trade" program to allow utilities to swap rights to emit mercury to comply with overall limits that would reduce nationwide emissions by 70 percent by 2018.
It could be years before the EPA can enact new rules on mercury. In the meantime, regulating mercury emissions will likely be left to states, which in many cases have set their own strict limits on utilities.
The nation's 1,100 coal-burning units emit about 48 tons of mercury each year, the largest unregulated US source. The EPA rule vacated by the court would have set the cap at 38 tons per year by 2010 and 15 tons per year in 2018.
Mercury contaminates water and fish and has been linked to neurological disorders in young children.
"The EPA recklessly ignored the law and the science," said Vickie Patton, an attorney for Environmental Defense. "Now, each coal plant in America must clean up its own toxic mercury pollution."
Environmental groups applauded the ruling.